Chapter 29 » 29.06

In reflecting on time spent working in Vietnam in the early 1970s, Helen Steven wrote:

Perhaps our most positive contribution to peace-making was to affirm and value Vietnamese culture in the face of the appalling destruction which we saw around us.

I believe that it is this fundamental respect for ‘that of God’ in everyone which is at the heart of all true development. On my return home I was horrified by our cultural, material and spiritual arrogance. I believe that it is profound arrogance which initiates aid programmes which force western methods of education, medicine or agriculture on people with traditions longer than our own; it is arrogance to assume that any political system or social or economic structure must be maintained and defended no matter how many people are bombed, napalmed or tortured in the process. Surely arrogance drives us to rape and destroy the earth’s scarce resources to fuel and protect the needs of one generation in one corner of the globe. And supreme arrogance to believe that we have the monopoly of spiritual truth.

I came home from Vietnam convinced that the real task of development lies at home at our own door.


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